Helping your child go back to school after transplant

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Going back to school is an important part of your child’s recovery. Your child may have missed several months or even a year or more of school. To

help ease your child back into the classroom, meet with teachers, school nurses and principals to:

  • Make a plan to catch up on missed school work.
  • Talk about your child’s medicines. Some medicines can make it hard to concentrate or have energy. Plan what to do if issues come up during the school day.
  • Ask about special services that schools are required to provide to K-12 students needing extra help, such as an Individual Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

If your child is in college, encourage them to meet with the school’s disabilities office or academic services to learn about the resources available.

Your child’s education rights

An IEP is a legal document that explains your child’s needs, the special services the school will provide and how the school will measure your child’s progress. An IEP requires an evaluation by a professional such as a school psychologist to see if your child qualifies for special services.

Some of the special accommodations in an IEP may allow your child to:

  • Have more time to finish assignments or take tests
  • Use a calculator and recording device
  • Complete assignments in a different way. For example, if your child has a hard time writing, ask if they can provide verbal answers.

Depending on your circumstances, something similar to an IEP called a 504 Plan may be best for you and your child. A 504 Plan is a document that explains services your child will receive but it’s not as detailed as an IEP.

Talk to your child’s teacher or school staff to learn more about IEPs and 504 Plans and to schedule an evaluation. Ask your transplant center social worker for help getting any required documents.

To learn more about special education services, go to ed.gov/parents

Tips to help your child adjust

Your child may feel excited, hesitant and self-conscious about going back to school. Classmates may not know what to say and will likely have questions.

You can help your child plan for how to answer questions. Some children and teens like to use a straightforward approach, like, “I was in the hospital and had a transplant to treat a disease. Now the disease is gone. I still wear a mask and take medicine to protect me from germs that could make me sick.” Depending on your child’s age and personality, they may want to answer these questions or have you or a teacher do this.

After being away from school and friends for so long, your child might also feel lonely or isolated. Talk to other parents and arrange for your child to spend time with friends. Let other parents know that your child isn’t too sick to play with other healthy, vaccinated kids.

Resources for you

  • One of the most important things you can do for your family is to take care of yourself. Be The Match Patient Support Center offers free information and support programs for BMT parent caregivers. Contact our BMT patient navigators at patientinfo@nmdp.org or 1 (888) 999-6743.
  • Read or order Living Now Magazine Special Issue: For Parents.
  • LD Online offers resources for parents wanting to learn more about the IEP process. Learn more at org/indepth/iep.
  • For tips on how to address bullying, visit gov or pacer.org/bullying.

Adapting to a new family dynamic: When a parent has a transplant

Posted July 6th, 2017 by Be The Match and filed in Patient Stories
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When Mary Clare had her transplant, her only daughter, Twila, was just 4 years old.

Suddenly, the family’s focus of attention and care shifted away from Twila and toward Mary Clare, which resulted in a wide range of changes that touched all 3 members of her family, and their relationships with one another.

My transplant and recovery changed my daughter’s world,” says Mary Clare, “Before diagnosis, Twila was the center of our small family and our days revolved around her school and activities.” But with her cancer diagnosis and transplant, Mary Clare found that she needed to be the center of attention because her successful recovery depended on receiving care from others.

Mary Clare accepted that she needed to rest and receive care and support. She turned to the school, neighbors and community for support. “We moved away from caring for my body and counting cells to nurturing our mental health and relationships,” she says.

She offers this advice to other parents in her situation: Although it is in all moms and dads to protect their children and keep them from harm, shielding them from a serious diagnosis and not talking about treatment is not beneficial. “We chose to be very open and factual about my cancer and transplant,” Mary Clare says.

Mary Clare and her husband found that being honest with their daughter about the science of transplant had an unexpected benefit: Twila developed a fascination with medicine and biology. “My daughter helped me do my physical therapy exercises and learned to assist in changing my IV, “she says, “I found it helpful to give my daughter a role in my care.”

Choosing to be open about her diagnosis and treatment also led Mary Clare and her husband to develop a unique way to help Twila cope with her mom’s situation.

“We used a jar of buttons to talk about feelings and fears,” Mary Clare explains, “Each day, Twila would take a handful of buttons and one by one add them to a jar, naming her fears and concerns one at a time.” Mary Clare says that this activity plus formal play therapy helped Twila manage her anxiety and gave her daughter an opportunity to talk about her own needs.

These steps to manage new family dynamics after transplant worked for Mary Clare. Experts on transplant recovery note that each family is different, and that transplant recipients and their children often need help coping with changes in family relationships.

If you need help coping with family changes after transplant, you’re not alone.

  • Talk to a social worker at your transplant center. They can provide support and help you access local and national resources.
  • Find helpful advice on adjusting to life after transplant on the Be The Match® website.
  • Talk to another parent who’s had a transplant. Our Peer Connect program can connect you with a trained volunteer who’s been there. No matter where you are in the transplant process, transplant recipients like you are available to talk by phone or email, sharing their experience and tips. To request a connection, visit: BeTheMatch.org/peerconnect.
  • Get confidential, one-on-one support from caring experts through the Be The Match® Patient Support Center. We provide support, information and resources for caregivers and families. Call or email us for. We’ll listen and help you find answers. All of our programs and resources are free. Call 1 (888) 999-6743 or email patientinfo@nmdp.org.

A transplant delivers a cure … and a new path in life

Posted January 9th, 2017 by Be The Match and filed in Patient Stories
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At 19 years old, Shane was making plans for his life, which included starting his second year of college. Then about a week before school started, Shane woke up feeling miserable. What seemed like a bad cold or the flu turned out to be something much more serious. Doctors found Shane’s blood counts were extremely low. He had aplastic anemia.

His doctor immediately admitted him to the hospital. After trying another treatment first, transplant was Shane’s best hope for a cure. He had his transplant just a few months later. His recovery hasn’t been easy, but his transplant journey led him down a new path that he now loves.

Here are Shane’s own words on how he found his new path:

Shane, transplant recipient

Shane, transplant recipient

“When I found out I had aplastic anemia it came as quite a surprise. I was a very active person, and I’d felt fine until I woke up one day with a fever and sore throat. Recovery from transplant has definitely had its ups and downs. Six months after my transplant, the steroids caused me to be about 60 pounds heavier than I’d ever been. I had some skin issues that fortunately did not turn out to be GVHD. I was going back to the hospital about once a week for checkups. It was hard to deal with.

“I was used to being social and active, and I was stuck in the house. I couldn’t be in the sunlight and I was uncomfortable in my own skin. We had to be careful with who came to see me because my immune system was still recovering, but it helped to have visits from friends.

“I didn’t always deal with the emotional aspects of recovery very well. Looking back, I should have taken better care of my mental health and reached out to a counselor or someone who could help me.

“Finally in September, I was able to start volunteering at my local community arts center again. It was a saving grace to have some responsibility outside the house. But at the same time, I was dealing with another disappointment. I couldn’t go back to college because of setbacks in my recovery. Thinking about going back was what had kept me going. I took it pretty hard, but the arts center scheduled me for more time and took me on as a volunteer intern, so that helped.

“I also started tutoring adults working on their GED. And I started volunteering at a local crisis center. Over time, the crisis center offered me a paid position. Now 3 years after transplant, I’m doing pretty well. My anxieties aren’t about my transplant anymore but like those of any 23-year-old asking, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ I don’t feel alone anymore in feeling like, ‘What’s next?’ I love my job at the crisis center, and I’ve discovered that this is the type of work I want to keep doing in my life.

“My life took a different path than I expected, but it’s led to something good and I’m thankful for that.”

_____

While recovery is different for everyone, most people will have one or more setbacks.

Here are 2 strategies others have found helpful to cope with setbacks:

  • Meet with a counselor or therapist
  • Talk about your recovery with other transplant recipients ─ at your hospital or through Be The Match®

Have questions about recovery and want to talk with someone who’s been there? Our Peer Connect program can help.
We’ll put you in touch with one of our trained volunteers — who are transplant recipients and caregivers — to answer your questions and share their own transplant experiences. The program is available to both transplant recipients and caregivers and we will do our best to find someone that most closely matches your situation (based on age, disease, etc.) Talking with other transplant recipients and caregivers can help answer questions such as:

  • How long did it take to recover?
  • What is your life like after transplant?

Volunteers are available to talk by phone or email. Request a connection now.